Postdoctoral Research Fellows: "Seeing Illegal Immigrants in France and the UK: State Monitoring and Political Rationality"

Two post-doctoral Research Fellows are required for an ESRC-funded project under the supervision of Prof Christina Boswell and Dr Emile Chabal exploring how states monitor ‘illegal’ immigrants in France, Germany and the UK. You will be carrying out archival research, conducting interviews with politicians and officials, coding data in NVivo, drafting publications and disseminating research findings.

You will join an ESRC-funded research grant on ‘Seeing Illegal Immigrants: State Monitoring and Political Rationality’. The project will commence on 1 May 2016, with two fixed term postdoctoral research fellows coming on stream from 1 July 2016 for a period of 18 months. You will be responsible for data collection and analysis for one of each of the two national case studies (France and the UK). You will also be active in preparing publications, and organising dissemination events and materials.

These two posts attract an annual salary of £31,656 to £37,768 per annum for 35 hours each week.

Main Responsibilities (approx. % of time)

  • Analyse secondary literature and policy/legislative documents on monitoring irregular immigrants in France/the UK. (10%)
  • Gather archival data in the form of government records pertaining to the monitoring of irregular migrants since the late 1960s (from the National Archives at Kew or the Archives Nationales at Fontainebleau). (25%)
  • Carry out 30-40 interviews with policy actors (politicians and officials) engaged in monitoring irregular migrants, in France/the UK. (25%)
  • Develop nodes for data analysis, and code data according to these codes using NVivo software. (25%)
  • Assist with disseminating information about, and findings from, the project, including helping to organise events in Brussels, London and Paris; assisting with website updates; and preparing and editing blogs. (5%)
  • Draft articles and other outputs for publication, in some cases co-authored with other participants in the project. (10%)

Key Contacts/Relationships

The post holder will be based in the department of Politics and International Relations in the School of Social Political Science. The project will be led by Prof Christina Boswell, who will also directly supervise the UK case study. Dr Emile Chabal, in the department of History, will supervise the French case study.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job


  • Appropriate degree, with relevant postgraduate research experience. Normally a PhD or equivalent professional qualification and/or experience in a field relevant to the research area, such as social science or history on a relevant topic (contemporary immigration policy, irregular migration, state monitoring and surveillance)
  • Good knowledge of literature and theories of immigration policy, irregular migration, and/or practices of state monitoring and surveillance
  • Good knowledge of contemporary immigration policy and politics in the relevant country (France or UK)
  • Excellent analytical skills, including the ability to critically analyse, apply and develop social scientific concepts and theories
  • Proven experience of using one or more of the methodologies involved in the project (document analysis, elite interviews)
  • Excellent attention to detail and accuracy in data collection and analysis
  • Ability to communicate complex information clearly, orally and in writing
  • For the fellow working on the French case, excellent knowledge of French including the ability to read French fluently, to conduct interviews in French, and to analyse and translate material from French to English

Job Context and any Other Relevant Information

This is an excellent opportunity for recently completed PhD researchers to participate in a cross-national collaborative project, with opportunities for producing publications, building international research networks and disseminating their work through conferences, public events and social media.

The research fellows will be located in Edinburgh for most of their employment. However, in order to carry out archival research between August–December 2016 both fellows will need to be temporarily located (for around 4 months) near to the relevant archives. For the French case study, this will mean staying near Paris/Fontainebleau; for the UK case study, it will mean staying near London/Kew. Travel and accommodation costs for the research stays will be covered by the grant.

Summary of the Project

Irregular immigration via Europe's sea borders has attracted substantial political attention recently. But just as striking is the lack of knowledge about, or even ‘strategic ignorance’ of, unauthorised immigrants already resident in European countries. Few countries regularly estimate the numbers of illegal residents on their territory. And governments tend to be reticent about collecting and publishing data on the control of illegal residence or employment.

This project examines how states 'see' illegal immigrants, through addressing two sets of questions.

  • (1) Which forms of illegality do states monitor, and which are left unscrutinised? What sorts of techniques and practices do public authorities use to monitor illegal residents? The project will be the first to systematically map, compare and explain the practices and technologies deployed in different European countries to monitor illegal immigrants.
  • (2) What do monitoring practices tell us about the type of political rationality informing state monitoring practices - what we term state 'logics of monitoring'? Through comparing monitoring practices in three countries, we can gain insight into how public authorities decide which aspects of the question to scrutinise, and which to overlook. The focus on monitoring provides a lens for reconstructing the logics underpinning political agency.

The project compares monitoring practices in the UK, France and Germany, using two main methods: (a) Archival data analysis. We will study public records from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, to examine how policy actors and politicians analysed and deliberated policy and practices relevant to monitoring illegal immigrants, during a critical juncture in immigration control in each country. (b) 100 interviews with policy actors, to reconstruct how public authorities perceived and responded to a second control crisis in the early 1990s; and to examine recent and current monitoring practices (up until 2015).

Application date
15 Mar 2016
Date of residence
1 Jul 2016
18 months
Europe United Kingdom
Social sciences Economics Geography International Relations Law Political science Sociology
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 5 years
Grants available
Award granted
Up to £ 37.768 annually